Do you ever feel unheard or unseen? Do you ever have something you want to ‘get off your chest’ but feel hesitant to share?
Sharing stories, especially heartbreaks and losses, eases suffering. Sharing is a cleansing process, keeping things inside can be toxic.
If you’re a journaler or a writer, you know the relief that can come from pouring your heart out onto a page. But some struggles need to be shared, heard, by a non judgemental, loving person.
Much of my wellness coaching training focused on the art of active listening. Often we don’t feel heard because frankly, in the days of everyone looking at their phones or televisions, we aren’t being heard!
True listening, deep sharing, and focused attention between two people can be incredibly healing. You may not have control over whether someone listens to you as deeply as you wish, but you can model listening behavior (giving another focused attention is also healing for you!). And when you model this behavior, you benefit by helping someone heal, and because focused attention is a mindfulness practice. And next time you need to be heard, the one you listened to before will have experienced the healing power of deep listening and will know how to reflect it back to you!
Four invaluable listening practices to make the person you’re with feel valued, heard, seen, and loved:
- Eye contact. Try your best to look the person in the eye as much as you can. If the intimacy makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, try looking just at their eyelid or eyelashes until you can bring yourself pupil to pupil with them. Try this for a few seconds at a time if you’re not used to looking someone in the eye it can be quite challenging. But believe me, this deep connection is powerful so keep practicing!
- Listen completely. Take in everything they are saying without cueing up an immediate response. Often we think ahead, imagining how the next sentence will end or even finishing others’ sentences and coming up with our response before the person we are listening to is even done speaking. Sit back, look them in the eye and take yourself into their experience. There is no greater gift you can give someone than your complete presence!
- Reflect. Repeat back what they said for clarity. Don’t interject your feelings or thoughts about what they said, just reflect, even repeat what they said to you. “If I’m hearing you correctly, you are saying…” or, “You said…. am I getting that right?” This is a tough one too because we are used to responding with our own feelings, or advice, about what someone is saying, try to keep it just about them, don’t share your own experience until you’re sure you’ve heard the whole story!
- Ask follow-up questions. Before you respond with your judgments, or ideas on how to ‘fix’ the problem (remember they may be talking just to clear their thoughts and share, not to be told what to do). Show that you are present and caring, by asking at least two follow-up questions. This can be as simple as “how does that make you feel?” Or, “have you been in a situation like that before, and what did you do?” You can even come right out and ask how you can be supportive, “how can I support you right now?” “Do you want my opinion or advice, or did you just want to be heard?”
These listening skills will take your conversation to a whole new level of connection and healing.
Try it next time you are speaking with someone and they want to share something they are struggling with. Let me know how it goes.